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0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak
0:34 - Dr Colin Mendelsohn discusses recently introduced vaping regulations in Australia
3:05 - Real risk to vapers from black market imports
6:29 - Failed regulatory experiment requires a different approach
7:17 - Closing remarks



Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Yunak, and this is GFN News on GFN TV. This program, Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, Tobacco Triple Clinician, founding chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association, will tell us more about his report summarizing a twelve month review of Australians waiting regulations. Thank you, Colin, for joining us today. Nice to have you again on the program. First, can you tell us why you wrote the report? Well, on the 1 October 2021, the federal government introduced new laws to require vapors to have a nicotine prescription to vape legally. They committed to reviewing these laws after six months, but still after twelve months they've not done so, and there's no sign of a report being done. So I decided to do my own review of the regulations and how they'd been played out. Why did the government introduce their regulations? The regulations had two main goals. One was to make nicotine legally available to adult vapors with the supervision and advice of their doctors. The other was to reduce youth vaping. And did the regulations achieve those goals? Well, as we predicted at the time, after twelve months, the regulations have been a resounding failure. They've achieved neither goal. In fact, they've made everything a lot worse. Getting a script is very difficult, and less 5% to 10% of vapors at the most, have one and most vape illegally and risk substantial fines. It's much easier still to buy deadly cigarettes than it is to access nicotine Vaping products. In your report you said that very few doctors write nicotine prescriptions. Why is this happening? Well, most doctors just know very little about Vaping. They've had very little training, they have very little formal education about it, so they don't understand it. But they're also very skeptical of vaping. They're getting constantly negative messages from the government, from health and medical associations, and from the media. And they're concerned about the legal risks. So if they prescribe a Vaping product which isn't approved and it's a problem, they're at some legal risk. So very few have become engaged with the whole Vaping prescription model in Australia. And what about the black market? Have illegal products become more widely available? Yeah, well, predictably the black market has stepped up and is importing massive numbers of illegal and unregulated products which are being sold widely through tobacco convenience stores, online and on social media. There are just containers full of these products coming into the country, and there's very little in the way of a deception of those products at the border, and very little in the way of enforcement, as is so often the case with the black market, that it's very hard to contain. And of course, there's no quality control with these products. These are dodgy products that have no safety or quality standards, and they're creating even more risk. And of course, the crime gangs are now starting to get involved, and the policing is virtually nonexistent. So really, the black market is rampant and is supplying a very large part of the vaping community. Speaking of young people, did the regulation prevent youth access to vaping nicotine? Well, no, quite the opposite. In fact, since these new regulations have been introduced, the black market has multiplied and is thriving and sells regularly and freely to young people. And of course, the young people have taken up this opportunity. They can buy these products very easily through social media. They can buy them through local retail outlets and through social media. They're often delivered directly to people or sold through friends. So they're available everywhere. And there are daily reports of teens vaping at schools, in classrooms, in the toilets. A lot of the schools, increasingly, they're introducing vape detectors in the toilets, they're putting in security cameras, they're locking the toilet doors, requiring kids to get the pass to go to the toilets. It's really not working. And there are reports of some kids becoming addicted to vaping and having other adverse effects. And kids as young as five and seven have been found to be vaping. So the situation has just got out of control since these regulations were introduced. And what about vape shops? Have they been affected? Well, the vape shops can't legally sell nicotine, so they have been devastated by this black market that sprung up. It's just so easy for vapors to get these products that many shops are now struggling, have noticed a significant reduction in business and some of the vape shops have closed down as a result. And I think this is a real tragedy for public health because vape shops play a very important role in helping people to quit smoking and we need them to survive. But under this model, they're going to be really struggling. Last question, colleen. Looking at Australia's Face experiment, what do you think should now be done? Well, we've known for a long time that the only way to eliminate a black market is to regulate it and to legalize the product. So nicotine liquid should be now regulated as an adult consumer product sold by licensed retail outlets wherever tobacco sold, just like it is in every other Western country. I mean, this model just hasn't worked in Australia. And we need strict age verification when these products are sold and strict or severe penalties and loss of license for retailers that break those rules. And we need to just really start all over again. We need to accept that we've got this wrong and start all over again. And hopefully we'll be able to turn this around. Thank you, Colleen. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on Gfntv or on our new podcast for more tobacco harm reduction updates. And on Thursday, we are inviting you to watch Brent's interview with Dr. Alex Woodach, where they discuss the principles and history of tobacco harm reduction and answer the question, is it working? Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.